Numa-Emile Descombes and Ulysse Georges Perret founded an etablissage workshop and watch dealership in 1894 in Le Locle. Early on, the company specialized in wristwatches, developing a chronograph with a 30-minute counter in 1897. In 1917, during the first World War, Universal produced one of the first bracelet chronograph watches. By 1918, Universal had already openend a branch in Geneva, which was gradually expanded to become the administrative center of the company. It was officially renamed Universal Genève in 1937.
In the 1930s, the focus was on the production of wrist chronograph models with the models Colonial, Compur and the very successful Compax chronograph range. In 1941, Universal built a new factory in Pont-de-Martel to meet the demand for watches as war equipment. It is unclear whether the chronograph movements came from Martel or Universal's factory there, but Universal also developed and produced their own time-only movements.
In the fifties, Universal patented, among others, a jumping central seconds, an automatic with bidirectional rotating central rotor and the “Microtor”, an automatic with off-center planetary rotor (also called micro-rotor). In 1954 the company launched the Polarouter, predecessor of the well-known wristwatch model “Polerouter”. In 1956 a new production facility in Geneva was established and thus the entire production was shifted there.
In 1966, Montres Universal Perret and Berthoud SA, as it was then known, joined together with Bulova. The companies remained somewhat separate from a product development and sales perspective, but this did give Universal access to Bulova's tuning fork movement technology, resulting in the 1968 introduction of the Universal Unisonic line. Universal would go on to use Bulova's tuning fork emblem on the dial of their watches, leading to some branding confusion between the two.
The 1960s and 1970s also saw continued technical innovation. Cal. 2-66 and 2-67, released in 1966, were the brand's first ultra-thin micro-rotor movements. A decade later, in 1975, Universal released Cal. 74, the world's thinnest quartz movement.
In 1989 the Stelux group bought the company and the brand Universal. It was re-launched again in 2005, focusing on the Microtor and its heritage in chronographs. The Microtor was re-launched as Cal. UG101 in 2007.
- See also Universal calibres
Universal Genève SA
Route des Acacias 6
Case postale 515
CH-1211 Genf 24
Tel. 022 / 307 78 80
Fax 022 / 307 78 90